Radio remains one of the most accessible and used forms to communicate and disseminate information in sub-Saharan Africa. This is particularly true among many isolated communities that do not have the means to operate landlines or computers. “Radio [also] speaks the language known by the majority of the population, for an oral language is not simply the product of illiteracy,” Kivikuru explains further (2005, p.326). At the same time, the usage of another communication tool surges, mobile phones.
Radio is still the primary medium in Africa and radio journalists are finding ways to extend their programs to cells phones.
In tandem with mobile phones, radio stations provide a forum, or a public sphere, for ordinary people to voice their opinions and discuss matters of common interest. So why not also use the medium for reconciliation? Stations in Cote d’Ivoire and Uganda show how it works.
Cote d’Ivoire has suffered from two civil wars in 2002-2007 and 2010-2011, and to this day, the country is deeply divided along political and ethical lines. The rehabilitation process is difficult but links between communities and local radio stations help building bridges and foster an understanding between different communities. Radio Duékoué “La Voix du Guémon” is one of such radio stations. Its programmes reflect on the conflicts and allow victims to share their sufferings and hopes for the future on air. Other listeners are invited to call in to share their own stories. Allen and Stremlau call this “promoting a ‘marketplace of idea’” by “opening the media and encourage more voices to counteract the offender” (2005, p.219).
Many participants desire a community enriched by ethnic diversity and shared values. This platform offered insight into the recurrence of violence in the community and ideas on how all people could participate constructively in the ongoing healing process.
Politicians used the media to aggravate the crisis and divisions between communities. I am delighted that today this same medium is being used to promote peace and reconciliation.
Gnagne Richmond, Deputy Mayor of Duékoué
Radio stations in Uganda show how programmes can also affect an ongoing conflict. Mega FM broadcasts in the north of Uganda, an area that has been ravaged by Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The programme “Dwog cen paco” (come back home) brings former LRA soldiers on air to talk about their experiences. Oryema is one of more than 3,000 soldiers that the station encouraged to come home.
I did not feel anything bad about killing. Not until I started listening to Radio Mega…. I actually heard over the radio how…we burnt homes…. And I started to think, ‘Are we really fighting a normal war?’ That is when I started realizing that maybe there is something better than being here in the bush.
Oryema, a former LRA child soldier
Radio Duékoué is part of a USAID programme, Mega FM is funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, and other foreign donor organisations support their own community radio stations. Kivikuru recognises this trend. “Grassroots-oriented community media, produced and controlled by local people, sound like an ideal tool for the promotion of democracy: these media are able to ‘give a voice to the voiceless’, to discuss matters important to ordinary people and to exert pressure on decision-makers,” in our case in particular the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2005, p.329).
Though she asks, “top/down or bottom/up – does it really matter” (2005, p.329). According to Shirky, it does. He sees the media as a tool to sustainably strengthen civil societies, and observes that “positive changes in the life of a country […] follow, rather than precede, the development of a strong public sphere” (2010, p.5). With this in mind, community radio stations seem vital in establishing lasting peace after a conflict.
Got interested in the topic? The short film “Peace on Air” is available on Youtube!
Allen, Tim and Nicole Stremlau (2005). Media policy, peace and state reconstruction, in Oscar Hemer and Thomas Tufte (eds.), Media & Glocal Change—Rethinking
Communication for DevelopmentKivikuru, Ullamaija (2005). The citizen, media and social change in Namibia, in Oscar Hemer and Thomas Tufte (eds.), Media & Glocal Change—Rethinking Communication for Development
Shirky, Clay (2010). The political power of social media technology, the public sphere, and political change
thanks for this great input. The radio projects you mention seem to be very interesting. I especially like to emphasize the importance of the participatory aspect. In the past radio has been used as a propaganda tool and in the hands of the wrong people it can do a lot of harm. I found an interesting documentary on this topic the other day. It is about the impact that radio played in the Rwanda conflict. This is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NH_ktSwnA-4
I believe that more democracy and more unheard voices on the radio are needed to create a lasting reconciliation.
This is an interesting article in the sense that it highlights some effectiveness, and possible outcomes of using a form of media many of us might already have dismissed as obsolete, at least within daily life.
For me, one of the most interesting aspects of participation in this medium (in this instance) is from former soldiers. Not only can radio inspire such people to change their views and actions (as with other forms of media), but it gives a voice to those who many might believe deserve none, especially after, for example, being a child soldier and causing wartime atrocities. Sometimes it’s good to let the opposition speak, as a way to learn what they are, or were thinking, and why.
My only doubt, with these examples at least, is with regards to political intent. Surely there are noble objectives that these radio stations set out to achieve, but whose objectives are they? Often the people backing or funding a media programme are the ones deciding what is broadcast. Is this really a grass-roots movement when foreign governments are in control?
Eleni Maria Rozali
Very interesting article Marco and it reminds us of the power the radio has in communication. There is a certain familiarity and reliability that can be attributed to this median, that we [as a society] tend to overlook
I think that nowadays with the embedment of the Internet and social media into contemporary society’s structures, we pay more attention to the new forms of media and forget the constructive power of older medians.
I personally feel that any form of media, that enables and empowers people to voice their realities, has a place in society, no matter how old it is.
It is interesting to see the radio and technology, for that matter as “artifacts that may be both shaped by and shaping of the practices humans use in interaction with, around and through them”
The radio as a median provides the affordance to people who use it, to convey their message in the hope of agency, “to exert pressure on decision-makers […] the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2005, p.329)”.
Mediated communication theory is also a very interesting aspect when you think of this: defined as “the relationship between the affordances…of different mediated technologies and the communication that results from using those technologies” (Whittaker, 2003).
On the other hand, Grounding theory breaks media affordances into [media] Constraints (inherent characteristics of a communication
medium), that affect media costs (subjective assessments by users
of the appropriateness of specific communicative behaviors). The theory predicts that people both choose media and choose methods of media use in a way that (1) satisfies their communicative purposes and (2) minimizes the “collaborative cost” of communication, i.e., the cost minimization extends across participants
Jeffrey Juris – Reflections on #Occupy Everywhere: Social media, public space, and emerging logics of aggregation
AllisonWoodruffand PaulM.Aoki © Copyright 2003 Palo Alto Research Center.
Media affordances of a mobile push-to-talk communication service
Thank you for all the interesting points you raise!
I agree that radio seems to be a medium that is overlooked sometimes! I found particularly interesting that in the cases I presented here it was the communities that demanded the use of radio.
This is also adressing Matthew’s point in particular. It is true that many of the radio stations are backed up by foreign donor organisations, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say that such organisations determine what is broadcasted. The broadcasting range is short and the small stations are quite self-sufficient. The influence of foreign donors rather lies in the training of local people. The people are given the abilities to use the equipment. What they do with it is left entirely up to them.
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